There are some very good books coming out of West Africa, though – books that really capture life, culture, and a world that people outside of Africa often don’t get to see either in person or in print. With one of my newest favorite authors, Aminatta Forna, Sierra Leone is firmly represented on that growing list.
It boils down to this: if you know a little about the culture of the place you are going to visit, you can probably figure out a lot of stuff that might stymie a tourist who isn’t as interested in a spot of adventure.
And sometimes the best way to know what to do is to know what *NOT* to do.
I’m not going to lie, our family has a deep love of visiting South Africa. It’s a fantastic place – one of the most beautiful places in the world -with incredible wildlife and an outdoorsy lifestyle that gives a visitor no chance for boredom. And while I normally stop reading any travel article that uses the word “vibrant” to describe a place or culture, I honestly can’t think of any other word that fits South Africa as well.
If Vienna and London are imagined in the staid grays and whites of a proper European city and Budapest is a sepia tone of historic struggles, South Africa is bright purples and reds, with contrasting colors everywhere you look.
But when you are from America, South Africa doesn’t seem all that big. After you visit the big tourist names of Cape Town and Johannesburg and see all there is to see on day trips, what else is left?
I’m sure you can understand why, as of the middle of September, I was rather reluctant to use reservations we made using United mileage points way back in April. Maybe you can’t. But you *could* if I told you that those reservations were made on a route that would be using Accra, Ghana as a transit point to get from one place in Africa to Marrakech, Morocco in December.
Okay, maybe you’re still a little confused. Let me illustrate:
Johannesburg, South Africa is not a vacation destination that immediately pops up when people talk about traveling abroad. Paris? Yes. London? Yes. Hong Kong? Bangkok? Yes and Yes. And if one actually does think about trekking to South Africa, it is generally Cape Town that does the honors (and believe me, it totally deserves that).
Johannesburg really should not be overlooked, though. And if you’re going to Cape Town or Kruger National Park you’ll be flying through JoBurg’s OR Tambo airport anyway – why not give it a quick stop?
It seems so simple – passport = travel to other countries. I mean, I can make a reservation from JFK to Moscow on Expedia snippity-snap and take some pictures in Red Square should I so wish, right? RIGHT?
Not really. That fancy passport is pretty awesome, I’ll agree. It is a ticket to quite a lot of interesting places and experiences. But sometimes it takes a little more than showing up with a smile and a blank page waiting for a stamp.